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Sounds weird, right? Taking a break from work in order to get better at it? I’m the first to admit my ego prevented me from taking time off for years… For me, a rest day, sabbatical – any kinda break really – always had a bit of a breakdown ring to it. As if the poor CEO concerned had been told to pack a bag of essentials, slink off into the wilderness, face a rock and “think about what you’ve done”.

So you just burn out, like I did

Physically and mentally, we all need time out. Plus, we gain valuable perspective when we walk away from our desk (and phone). It’s why we have annual leave built into our contracts. We feel that carefree beachy reset instantly. The problem? It vanishes the moment we step out of our sarong and back into the office. We don’t carry the benefits of the chill with us. We haven’t learnt how.

Here are 5 simple secrets to career success you can learn on a “break” from work…

Whether you’re all about climbing the corporate ladder, are considering changing careers entirely, or you just need to take five, a wellness retreat is a legit way to do it.

I recently took time out from my post-retrenchment job scramble to slow down, sleep in a tent, do yoga on the grass and take serious stock of my life at the Cherry Glamping Ajo Wellness Retreat. Here are the important lessons I’ll be taking back into the workplace with me…

Ajo Wellness glamping
The Ajo Wellness Retreat setting: Cherry Glamping in the Elgin Valley, just an hour outside Cape Town, offers luxury tented accommodation in two different forest camps.

Secret #1: Step away from the phone

I know a musician who locks his phone in a box when he needs to write music. Smart. Since the cellphone is our biggest creativity killer. It’s also our biggest energy and time suck.

At the retreat, we were encouraged to switch off, and suddenly the hours stretched before me like I’d just scored a month of Sundays! I got the benefit of time and my head space was freed up – to notice the things I’d ordinarily miss, to feel the joy and take pleasure in small, simple moments, and to be creative.

Benefit: Extra time in your day

We can’t all put our phones in a box, but we can be more intentional about when and how and for how long we use our devices.

Do this to increase your productivity: Switch to flight mode when you’re busy with important tasks. Silence all non-essential alerts. To sleep better: Avoid screen time for at least an hour before bed. To claim back hours of your day: Allocate small chunks of time to catching up on social media, and set a timer so you stop after, say, 15 mins.

Most importantly, do not reach for your phone first thing in the morning. Your brain is on fire in the a.m. – this is when you’re primed to have aha moments, so gift yourself an hour of sacred “ideas” time. You’ll be amazed what you can achieve.

READ MORE: Is It Your Desk Or Insta Addiction That’s Causing Your Nagging Back Pain? Or Something Else Entirely?

Ajo Wellness tent interior
A peek inside a Cherry Glamping tent: rustic “faraway” vibes with lashings of home comforts.

Secret #2: Get into nature

Like phones, walls are necessary – but restrictive. Take yourself outside and your mind will automatically expand. No need to go bos, just forget the city and what you think you need to feel safe and secure for a few days.

The Ajo Wellness Retreat dished up the perfect balance: rustic “faraway” vibes with lashings of home comforts. Think tent… but with an actual bed, cosy blankets and warm lamp light. Fire… but in a boma. Starry skies and fields of flowers, a dam ringed with mountains… but with emergency wifi.

Benefit: A confidence boost

I go camping as often as possible. It gets me out of my own head. That gnawing worry about not being good enough, or that monstrous project you’ve been putting off? They feel pretty small and manageable when you’re staring out at the galaxy – the actual “bigger picture”.

Don’t have the budget for a weekend away right now? Go for an energising, confidence-boosting walk. That quick mental reset will prepare you to calmly step up to the next level. Think: tackling that daunting task, or asking for that promotion you deserve.

READ MORE: Apologising May Be Holding You Back In Your Career – Here’s What Happened When These Women Tried To Stop Saying “I’m Sorry” For A Week

Yoga at the Ajo Wellness Retreat
Firdose, from The Om Revolution, guided us through beautiful, grounding yoga sequences that I’d recommend for both practising yogis and newbies alike.

Secret #3: Stretch your body to still your mind

Yoga is a moving meditation. As you move your body, so you still your mind, shutting out the “noise” that blocks creativity: Did I say the wrong thing in that meeting yesterday? Should I pack a tuna or chicken sarmie for lunch? Silencing your inner “worrier” frees up space for creative thought to flow, generating new ideas and novel solutions to problems.

Benefit: Tap into your creativity

Remember that “sacred hour” I talked about earlier? Use some of that time to stretch your body. Just 10 minutes in the morning can get your blood flowing, stir up your creativity, calm your mind and set a strong intention for the day. You’ll feel more motivated, and find you have clearer, more manageable daily goals.

Want to advance your yoga practice? Sign up for a Yoga Foundations Course with Firdose through Triad Integrated Wellness.

READ MORE: “Here’s Why I Recommend Yin for Anyone Suffering from Anxiety”

A balanced view on wellness retreats – toasting your health with a glass of South Hill vino. Psssst: South Hill is delish… and you’ll find the vineyard in the Elgin Valley too. Pop in.

Secret #4: Write stuff down

The physical act of writing is a powerful tool. The Ajo Wellness Retreat, with its emphasis on solo journalling time, was a valuable reminder.

Career a hot mess, or not sure you’re on the right path? Feel bored, stifled, confused, anxious, even depressed? No actual idea what you want to do? Simply start writing. It’ll help you with the bigger picture: Who am I? What’s my purpose? And it will assist with smaller things, like setting and achieving daily goals.

Benefit: You’ll get stuff done

Who doesn’t love a list? And ticking those boxes feels amazing! A physical list breaks overwhelming tasks down into achievable goals. As you accomplish things, one item at a time, it starts to feel way more manageable.

Want to take it further? Try free-flow writing. Again, sacred morning hours are great for this. Just let your brain go berserk, scribbling whatever pops into your head until you start to see patterns form or ideas crystallise. You’ll get closer to understanding your passions, and your purpose.

READ MORE: 7 Major Signs You’re Suffering with Chronic Exhaustion

Ajo Wellness group in the flowers
That’s me on the far left, captured feeling pure joy and gratitude in the moment.

Secret #5: Say thank you

Bisi Emenanjo, the brains and heart behind Ajo Wellness Retreats, gave me something more valuable than an MBA. A notebook called 30 Days Of Thankfulness – A Daily Journal To Becoming Habitually Thankful.

According to Psychology Today, creating the habit of gratitude is something that will serve in all areas of your life. Those who are grateful have less resentment and are usually happier people, says Bisi.

Gratitude is closely related to your purpose. Stuck in career limbo, I’m still trying to figure mine out. “When you know your WHY, you appreciate life more, because you realise you are here for a greater purpose. Staying in a state of thankfulness opens you up to a deeper sense of clarity, creativity and connection, and it also decreases fear.”

Benefit: You’ll be so much happier!

Bisi’s WHY is the reason she started Boutique Wellness Travel Company Ajo (“journey” in Yoruba), whose mission it is to create a space for women to come to: to reflect, to reconnect and to rejuvenate – a platform for her to help other women to find their own purpose.

I’m on the 30-day journey to figure out what I’m really passionate about. Because I plan on making the next 30 years of my career the highlight. I hope you will too, and that these lessons help you along the way.

Keen to try an Ajo Wellness Retreat? Use the voucher code #GoElginRetreats5 when you book.

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